There’s hardly a soul who doesn’t dream of going on a holiday to France. In fact, it is the most visited country in the world. From the language to the culture, from the exotic cheeses and wines to chocolate croissants, France is simply irresistible. But not everybody knows that it is a great destination for students of engineering. Every year, more than 2,000 students from India go to France. Of them, around 40 per cent opt for higher studies in engineering.
There are a number of reasons why students opt for France. First, there’s the historical angle. The country has produced some of the pioneers in science such as André-Marie Ampère (he discovered electromagnetism and the unit of measurement of electric current, ampere, is named after him), Henri Becquerel (a Nobel Laureate, he discovered radioactivity), and Henry Louis Le Chatelier (known for his work on the principle of chemical equilibrium). Second, as Pascal Formisyn, director general of the Ecoles des Mines, a group of seven French engineering schools, points out, “The quality control on education is stringent and the government bears a huge cost. So, students can access best education at affordable costs.” The duration of the programmes is another plus. A masters in engineering in France usually takes between a year and sixteen months. In India, most masters programme are of two years.
But before applying to institutes of your choice, it is important to understand the French higher education system. “There are basically three kinds of institutes — government-funded universities, Grand Ecoles (private universities) and specialised schools,” explains Amitava Das, education advisor at the Calcutta unit of CampusFrance, a national agency which promotes French higher education abroad. The specialised schools usually focus on a specific area of research.
CampusFrance has a programme called n+1. The n+1 network includes more than 70 French engineering schools and is designed for international students who have already earned an undergraduate degree equivalent to a bachelors degree. Students who attend n+1 schools receive language training, corporate training, management education along with training in humanities and social sciences.
The language of instruction is mainly French at the public universities, so not knowing the language can be a problem. Cyril Marteaux, director of international relations at ESIGELEC, a graduate school of engineering, says coming in at the bachelors level with no knowledge of French is a strict no-no. This probably explains why Indian students are more comfortable joining at the masters level. “Several programmes offered by the Grandes Ecoles, especially in the fields of engineering and management, are in English,” says Vidya Suresh, country manager, ESIGELEC, India.
Once you have zeroed in on the institute of your choice, you’ll find the admission process less tedious than that of other countries such as the US, which requires a separate entrance test. Most institutes in France do not require a GRE score. The admission requirements include a CV, statement of purpose, recommendation letters and academic records from Class XII. A key element of the selection process is an interview conducted over Skype or telephone. This can last from anything between 30 and 60 minutes. If the applicant is a student, two recommendation letters are usually needed from the last institute attended. In case of an applicant who is working, then one letter from the employer and another from the previous education institute attended is necessary.
A masters in engineering will cost between Rs 8 and Rs 12 lakh, depending on the institute. You can expect to spend Rs 5 lakh for room and board. But there are scholarships and other ways to reduce costs. “There are a total of nine scholarships. Most students apply for the French Embassy Scholarship, Eiffel Scholarship, Erasmus Mundus Scholarship and Air liquid Scholarship,” says Das.
The French Embassy Scholarship offers 615 euros (around Rs 42,000) per month. Along with this, he or she will get medical insurance which is called social security in France. Eiffel Scholarship holders get approximately 1200 euros (around Rs 83,000) per month, apart from travel expenses and health insurance.
In addition, all international students are entitled to lodging assistance allowance and students can earn back a part of their expenses through paid internship which is a part of the engineering masters programme.
Saurav Moonka, who is studying at Ecole Centrale De Nantes for a European masters in advanced robotics, completed the online application for the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship and ended up receiving it. He feels it is not difficult for one to acclimatise to the French education system if one is a part of the international students’ society. “You can also make friends easily with other international students,” he adds. But he does admit that mingling with the local crowd requires fluency in French.
Concurs Priyanka Ray, who studied French at the Alliance Francaise in Calcutta, before heading for France, “Not knowing French is not a major issue for engineering and science students as most textbooks are in English and research papers are also published in English,” she says.
So, what kind of opportunities can international students look forward to post engineering? There are numerous research options, even jobs are easy to find. As Marteaux says, “Even five or six years ago, international students used to find it very difficult to get jobs, but it is easier nowadays.”
WHERE YOU LEARN
1) Institut Telecom www.get-telecom.fr
2) ISEP www.isep.fr
3) ESIGELEC www.esigelec.fr
4) Centrale Nantes www.ec-nantes.fr
5) Insa, Graduate School of Science and Technology www.insa-imasters.com
6) Efrei www.efrei.fr
7) GEM Groupes des Ecoles des Mines www.gemtech.fr
8) Ecole Polytechnique www.ecole polytechnique.fr
Masters degree in engineering: Rs 8-12 lakh
Board and lodging: Rs 5 lakh approximately
French Embassy Scholarship
Erasmus Mundus Scholarship
Air liquid Scholarship